Here is a reprint of an article illustrating some of the hand-to-hand combat that was developed in World war II. W.E. Fairbairn put together a set of simple, basic techniques for the Home Guard. He also taught these to the OSS at Fort Richie, PA. The combat tricks in this old article are effective and have stood the test of time. If you use them you do so at your own risk.
Reprinted from the Ordnance Soldier’s Guide, published by the Ordnance Replacement Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, circa 1943, 1944
Although this is a war or machines, It is also a war of men. Hand-to-hand combat is an ever-present possibility. To help you take care of yourself In an emergency, we have condensed some excerpts from "Get Tough", a book written by Major W. E. Fair bairn of the British Army and published by D. Appleton-Century Company of New York. The methods of fighting shown here aren't pretty, but they're efficient. Just remember that you'll have to use the same tactics that your enemy uses - only you'll have to be better
First, you should learn that a blow struck with the edge of the hand is much mere deadly than a blow from a clenched fist. Always strike with the little-finger edge of the hand, using a chopping action from the elbow (Fig. I). You may swing vertically or side-ways, aiming for such points as the side or back of the wrist; the midpoint of the forearm; the biceps; the sides or back of the neck; the point just below the Adam's Apple, or the kidneys. Practice this blow by striking your own hand. (Fig. 2.)
In this fighting style, the counterpart of an uppercut is a Jab to the chin, delivered with the heel of the hand (Fig. 4). Wait until you're close to your opponent, and then drive your hand to his chin, with your fingers extended so as to reach his eyes (Fig.5). Again, you can practice on your own hand. The chin jab is most effective when combined with the dirtiest trick of fighting — a knee to the groin. Put the weight of your body on one leg, bend the knee of the other leg slightly, and drive your knee into your opponent's crotch. (Fig. 7.)
To overcome an enemy sentry, approach your opponent from behind and swing your left forearm against his throat, bearing on the Adam's Apple. At the same time, place your right elbow on his right shoulder, and place your right palm on the back of his head. Grasp your right biceps with your, loft hand and apply pressure. This will strangle him.(Fig. 9.)
Should he attempt resistance, change the position of your right hand so that the edge of your hard bears on the back of his head. A sharp pressure will then break his neck. (Fig. 10.)
In case you should become a prisoner, here's one way you can escape, using an ordinary penny matchbox as a weapon. Assume that you're sitting beside your captor, with a gun in your ribs. Grasp the box in your far hand, holding it as shown. (Fig. 11.) Quickly turn toward your opponent, sweeping the gun away with the near arm. Swing the clenched fist holding the match box so that it strikes your opponent behind the ear. Keep the arm straight, and make the movement as quickly as possible. (Fig. 12.) This usually results in a knockout blow.
To break a front strangle hold, (Fig. 13), grasp your opponent's right elbow with your left hand. With your right hand, reach across his arms and seize his right wrist. (Fig. 14.) Bear down on his left arm and swing his other arm toward your right side. (Fig, l5.) At the same time turn your body rapidly to the right. Finish up with an edge-of-the-hand blow to his right elbow. (Fig. 16.)
If he still shows signs of a fight, finish him off with the "Bronco Kick" This consists of a flying jump at your opponent. When jumping, bend your knees, (Fig.17), then when your feet are approximately eight inches above your opponent's body, straighten your legs, drive your heels into him and kill him. (Fig. 18.)
Copyright, 1942 by W.E. Fairbairn
This brief article was included in a small, mimeographed manual issued during World War II to Ordnance Personnel, circa 1943-1944. The manual included a variety of one and two page lessons on basic soldiering and ordnance work. Here is a link to the complete manual:
Below are two additional techniques devised by Fairbairn.
Here is another choke defense. The soldier hits the extended arm in the crook of the elbow, and follows with a knee to the groin and an elbow to the face or chop to the neck. This is from a Danish manual that copied Fairbairn’s pictures. This could also be used against a push or grab.
The knee kick is simple. It is a thrust to the opponent’s knee. If he is still standing after the kick, scrape your boot down his shin and stomp his instep. Follow with a knee lift or chin jab. This picture is from Army Field Manual 21-150 Combatives, 1971 edition.
Some friends and I started looking into military systems of close combat back in the 1970s. Reprints of many of the old books became available thanks to companies like Desert Publications and Paladin Press. I also had a copy of FM 21-150 "Combatives" 1971 edition. I had learned that style of bayonet fighting and the riot baton in the Army. I later took a course with a former Marine who taught the system Dermot O’Neill taught in Shanghai.
The military techniques worked well enough. I used them several times in altercations. Though I was not always unscathed myself, I had the upper hand and was able to either dump the adversary or get out of trouble.
If you want to be an all-around kick-ass brawler, then take up a fighting sport or martial art. Expect to devote years to training and conditioning. Those who want to be neighborhood tough guys can start saving for bail money, medical bills, fines and legal fees. If you want to be able to handle a scuffle if it emerges, the military systems work well enough. A few sessions of training and occasional practice will suffice.
Fairbairn’s system is simple and easy to learn. It will not make you an MMA class fighter, but it will give you the means to defend yourself.
You may have wondered why Fairbairn does not teach a stance. In his method, a fighter went right into action. He used no stances.(Miyamoto Musashi, the 17th century Japanese Sword master who won 60 duels, said that a stance, or "attitude" is defensive. He urged moving aggressively, negating the need for a stance. I know from my own experience that a stance only warns the opponent that you are ready to fight.) There are no fancy kicks or complex throws. Fancy tricks are useless in a real fight.
(Back in the 80s, I was in a diner picking up containers of coffee. Through the window, I saw a plainclothes cop and his partner hassling some fellow on the street. The cop decided to show off. He whipped a couple of flashy kicks in the air. They might have flown in a dojo, but on the street in leather shoes they were awkward and the man fell on his ass. He hit the ground hard. He successfully hurt someone: himself. The fellow they tried to hassle walked away laughing while the cop’s partner radioed for medics. Fancy tricks are for the dojo, not the street.)
I have to caution readers that the methods taught by Fairbairn (and O’Neill, Styers, Applegate and Biddle) were meant to be used against a dangerous enemy. They can do serious harm to a person. Try them at your own risk. For instance, the choke / strangle taught by Fairbairn can do a lot of harm. Another nasty one is in FM-21-150, 1971 edition, in the Basic section. I have used both chokes and they will subdue an adversary like few other techniques. They can also kill or do permanent damage. Whatever you do with this information is entirely your responsibility. You have been warned.
Another piece of advice. Do not go showing off your new hand-to-hand skills at the local gin mill. At the best, you come off as a fool. At the worst, you catch a beating from someone who is a better fighter than you. Don’t think you are suddenly a super fighter, either. These lessons are for emergencies and they work best when they are a surprise.
I remember a fellow named Orville (or something like that) who had been a paratrooper. He was taught the later version of the O’Neill method in the late 1960s. The only hand strikes taught were chops and finger stabs. This fool was in a bar and overheard someone say he had studied karate. Orville kept goading the man to show his stance. The fellow finally reneged, probably just to get the clown to leave him alone. He did a stance that used closed fists. Orville thought martial arts only used the open hand, based on a few hours of instruction in Army Basic training. He accused the man of being a phoney and decided to teach him a lesson. Orville is the one who learned a lesson that day. The man he challenged had at least enough karate training to dump the ex-paratrooper.
A very wise man told me one of the best pieces of advice ever given: Don’t be stupid. Those words definitely apply here.
He who looks for trouble will eventually find more than he can handle.
You can find links to Applegate’s Kill or Get Killed and O’Neill’s later system here:
Here are two books worth reading:
Get Tough, also sold as All In Fighting
W.E. Fairbairn was commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Police. He developed a hand to hand combat system for his officers. Fairbairn had degrees in Judo and Chinese Boxing. Later, he refined it for instruction to the Home Guard and military. The techniques in Get Tough, several of which were given in the above article, are easy to learn and easy to use. Get Tough and All in Fighting also include stick and knife techniques. The latter has additional info on bayonet and rifle shooting.
Charles Nelson Self-Defense: Great little system based on what O’Neill originally taught in Shanghai. I took lessons from Nelson many years ago. I still have my original copy of his "red book".
I assume no responsibility for your use of these techniques. You use them at your own risk. They are dangerous and can cause serious harm. This material is presented for information only.